Raising the Bar
How one man’s thirst for knowledge led him — and West Chester University — to great heights.
Striving to do better is a hallmark of Phil Donley’s approach to learning.
A football injury in his sophomore year of high school propelled Phil from athlete to equipment manager, and eventually into his future profession.
“It’s a visual I can still see clearly today,” he says. “The West Virginia University athletic trainer finished examining my buddy’s knee and I thought, ‘I want to learn how to do that.’”
When Phil stepped on campus in 1965 as a faculty member, West Chester only offered teacher education. He accepted the challenge of expanding the curriculum, which included a nine-week summer program open to other schools.
“I want to do things that other people don’t know how to do, and I treat my patients that way — I keep looking for better ways to do things.”
In 1966, Phil hired Virginia Forsyth, a physical therapist and WCU graduate who may have been the first full-time faculty and staff athletic trainer in the country.
In the 1971-72 academic year, he established the first academic program for athletic trainers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Under Phil’s leadership, West Chester became home to the first co-educational facility for student-athletes in the country.
“The example Phil set is still seen today in the modeling of involvement between faculty and students at different levels of the organization, advocacy for the profession, and the delivery of quality healthcare,” says Scott Heinerichs, Dean of the College of Health Sciences.
Now celebrating 50+ years, graduates and friends of the program and current and former faculty have donated over $79,000 to rename a portion of the soon-to-be-renovated space in the Sturzebecker Health Science Center in Phil’s honor.
“I think it’s important that current and prospective students see what graduates have done statewide, and nationally,” Phil says. “And how this program provided the foundation for their work in the field.”
Phillip B. Donley
Former WCU head athletic trainer and professor of Physical Education, Founder & Former Director of Athletic Training Education Program
"I think it's important that current and prospective students see what graduates have done statewide, and nationally," Phil says. "And how this program provided the foundation for their work in the field."
“The example Phil set is still seen today in the modeling of involvement between faculty and students at different levels of the organization, advocacy for the profession, and the delivery of quality healthcare."
WCU Athletic Training Education Program by the Numbers:
1 of the first four accredited athletic training programs. Today there are 250 programs.
9 alumni have been inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame.
9 alumni have been recognized as the Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.
11 alumni named to the Eastern Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame.
9 alumni have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Athletic Training Hall of Fame.
In conjunction with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association conference held in Philadelphia, the College of Health Sciences and the Department of Sports Medicine hosted a reception to honor Phil and the University’s 50+ years of athletic training education. Pictured are (L-R) Katie Morrison ’02, Professor and Chair of Sports Medicine; Scott Heinerichs ’99, Dean of the College of Health Sciences; honoree Phil Donley; and President Christopher Fiorentino.